A Covid variant originating from Brazil has been found in the UK.
A new Covid variant originating from Brazil has been found in the UK, but it is not the highly infectious strain that provoked the UK’s international travel ban.
Brazilian Covid variant in UK
An expert virologist said one type of the strain had been discovered which had likely come to the UK “some time ago”.
Government advisor on the pandemic response, Professor Wendy Barclay, said on Friday: “There are two different types of Brazilian variants and one of them has been detected and one of them has not. The new Brazilian variant of concern, that was picked up in travellers going to Japan, has NOT been detected in the UK. Other variants that may have originated from Brazil have been previously found.”
She is in charge of a new project dedicated to studying the effects of emerging Covid mutations and she stated: “In the databases, if you search the sequences, you will see that there is some some evidence for variants from around the world and, I believe, including the Brazilian one, which probably was introduced some time ago. That will be being traced very carefully.”
The expert from Imperial College said that both Brazilian variants have mutations which indicate that “they might impact the way that some people’s antibodies can see the virus”.
She wanted to emphasise that: “It is really important that we carry out this work now, and carry it out carefully, and in several different laboratories, to really firm up those results because they have big implications.”
The government has banned travel from South America, Panama and Portugal and Cape Verde. The decision came into effect at 4am on Friday.
British and Irish nationals and others with residence rights are exempt from the measures although they must self-isolate for 10 days upon returning to the UK.
Grant Shapps, the Travel Secretary, called the ban a “precautionary” measure to make sure that the vaccine rollout across the UK was not affected by new variants of the virus.
An epidemiologist and scientific adviser to the Government, Dr Mike Tildesley, said: “We always have this issue with travel bans of course, that we’re always a little bit behind the curve. My understanding is that there haven’t really been any flights coming from Brazil for about the past week, so hopefully the immediate travel ban should really minimise the risk.”